In Light of Star Wars’ Shady Past

By December 19, 2017 Daily Pontification

The video below was shared to underline the effect of subtracting music from one of Star Wars: Episode IV‘s most famous scenes.


But what struck me most was the use of natural/naturalistic interior and exterior lighting. A believable visual depth exists across the town, catina, and its costumed menagerie, a tangible atmosphere mostly absent from the newer films because of their (over)reliance of post-production/CGI which tends to subtract the gradient for a layer of shimmer and sheen our eyes can naturally discern (Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One stands apart in this regard, the grittiest of the newer SW universe films)

The limitations of budget and technology of 1977 required Lucas and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor to shoot Star Wars like any other non-science fiction story, and it results in a recognizable “realness” (something apparent when catching the CGI Lucas details later tacked on in his obsessive mission to “improve” his trilogy, the cinematic equivalent of botched restoration in Borja).

We’ve all been at a bar where you don’t necessarily know whether it’s night or day outside, but you sure know its shady AF inside.

Note the hooded figure seated in the background, framed between Ithorian Momaw Nadon (Hammerhead) and his companion. I’m pretty sure that costume looked only marginally better than the masks you can now buy for Halloween at RiteAid. But as illuminated here, he looks like the weathered and worn silent types you might really find nursing a Coors in some dingy bar in Buttbackward Nowhereville. What you don’t see is as important as what you do.

I also love the network of distillery pipes and chambers behind the punching bag-nosed bartender, the metallic reflections from its assemblage as bright as shadowy the bar’s miscreants. Taylor shoots faces in shadow instead of illuminating them from the front, magnifying creases, wrinkles, and the disapproving glances as camera follows Luke and Obi-wan.

Lucas and Taylor maintain a shallow depth of field throughout,  effectively diminishing any unbelievable details visible across the 70’s costumes, while magnifying the intimate confusion of bumpkin Luke as he navigates a sea of deplorables. Only when panned out is everything in focus. The smoky white lighting around the bar – in combination with the film grain – is especially effective in adding to the ill repute atmosphere, implying its shadowy corners are where the majority of dealings are unfolding.

Rogue One comes closest to capturing the gritty realism of its practical effects era predecessor, staged with a great attention to the shadows, perhaps reflective of the emergence of Jyn from her questionable past.

Check out these scenes from Scorcese’s Mean Streets, a film released four years before Episode IV. Again, shadows and light implemented as an extension of dialogue and narrative. You know this feeling because you’ve been here…even though you haven’t.

The gritty grounded parallels across American films of the 1970s make it my favorite decade. Whether lowbrow or highbrow, the force of artistry is strong…something sadly disappearing from the oeuvre of pop culture cinema where glimmering, bright, and colorful have blown out the beautiful presence of shadows.

Visiting the Tsukiji Fish Market

By October 30, 2017 Postcards

The Tsukiji fish market is an overwhelming experience, a remarkable living organism of fishmongers, shippers, packers, sellers, and machinery all orchestrated into a extrordinary ballet of movement in the delivery, processing, and sales of seafood. This is the last year at this location between the Sumida River and the upmarket Ginza shopping district, so I feel especially grateful of the opportunity to see it in operation before its inevitable moveto Toyosu, Koto in 2018.

The Absolutely Ridiculous Hunt for the Best Brush & Dustpan For Cat Litter Clean Up Duty

By May 31, 2017 Daily Pontification, The Design Drawer

A few months ago I pulled the trigger and purchased the Rig-Tig dustpan by Stelton on sale. It’s sole purpose: to keep our sole bathroom floor tidy of cat litter, a common annoyance while living with an OCD cat with an affinity for kicking out granules with the vigorous kicks of a Rockette on (our other cat has a penchant for misdirecting her stream OUT the litterbox, a whole other concern). If you’re looking for laundry services please visit commercial laundry service.

Until then I had relied upon another dustpan+brush combo that worked well. But its large size matched with the Lilliputian dimensions of our sole bathroom made for a poor long term fit. Pulling out the canister vacuum was the most effective, but proved tiresome. And being situated throughout the day right next to where all this bathroom action happens meant it’s an imperative to keep the area as clean as possible. Read More

The Great Mushroom Bloom of Winter 2016/17

By January 15, 2017 Trails and Tribulations

It’s been many years since we’ve seen a mushroom discovery and foraging season like this one, an unexpectedly wet La Niña winter that has made up for last year’s vastly disappointing and relatively mild El Niño.

Thus, Saturday late afternoon, we headed over to the Santa Monica Mountains to search for fruiting bodies of fungi, slime molds, and lichens. We did not leave disappointed, photographing a wide variety of fruiting bodies growing primarily underneath the oak trees, but also close to the sycamores that follow seasonal flows. We even came home with a pristine white bouquet of oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, which will be seasoned and pan-fried this evening for dinner.

The only bummer of the afternoon was losing my screw-in macro lens for the iPhone 7 Plus. It must have dropped out of my pocket as I rolled around to find mushrooms amongst the duff. A fair trade? Yeah, I think so.

Read More

We Won’t Stay Young For Long

By January 9, 2017 Daily Pontification

Five favorites on constant rotation. It’s a lo-fi dream pop sorta week…
Read More

Ascent /// Descent

By January 6, 2017 Daily Pontification

A gauze wall of sound with a feather of vocals floating overhead, all set within the Philip Johnson Glass House? Count me entranced. From Julianna Barwick‘s upcoming third full-length, Will.

Recorded in Lisbon, Portugal and Asheville, North Carolina at the Moog factory, with guest Thomas Arsenault (Mas Ysa), cellist Maarten Vos and percussionist Jamie Ingalls, this is music to ascend into consciousness with in the morning or to accompany you into the descent into unconsciousness in the night.

The Leftovers of 2016

By January 4, 2017 Daily Pontification

With the conclusion of Inner Vision for The Wirecutter now a done deal – concluding a most satisfying 2 1/2 year run – I still find myself with countless stories, videos, tips, tricks, and books I’ve gathered over the years to stir into my weekly hot pot of online links. I’m calling the following the leftovers…


Cabin Fever: “We know that, at the very least, some technologies are harming our natural world, our societies and, ultimately, ourselves. Therefore we can recognise the need to reject some technologies. If we’re to avoid technological extremism we’re going to have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. I’ve drawn mine, and I will only move it in the direction of my home.”

This might be the equivalent of a purge/cleanse diet, but the desire to abandon technology completely is recognizably and profoundly becoming more common as it intrudes upon the source of our happiness, most notably the availability of time to call our own.

Strangely Good: Music back in ’70s Turkey was made with flair and spirit, drawing on Western psych, disco, rock as much as Eastern traditions and folk. “It’s not kitchy, it’s not pop. It’s strange and really good,” says Mete Adunduk, who appears in the film.


The Great Animal Orchestra: Listen. No, really…shut up. Stop moving, stop talking, and listen to the world around you for at least one minute without pause or interruption. Those sounds of nature – the biophony – is the collective sound of vocalizing animals (probably birds, maybe insects) that characterize an environment, the soundscape that blends into the non-biological sound sources of the geophony (e.g. wind and rain) and humanity’s intrusive addition, the anthrophony. Together, you’re experiencing the bioacoustic orchestra of the world.


Crust of the Polygon: Designer Norihiko Terayama’s delicate polygonal sculptures are constructed oh-so-carefully with conjoined pins. The resulting wireframe surrounding each plant define twig or branch as a centerpiece, while also bringing attention to the immediate space each occupies, evoking ideas of photosynthesis, entropy, non-verbal communication, and the proximity of others.


Does This Browser Make Me Look Fat? “This is a screenshot from an NPR article discussing the rising use of ad blockers. The page is 12 megabytes in size in a stock web browser. The same article with basic ad blocking turned on is one megabyte.”

It’s worth mentioning when I had graduated from college with a design degree and a rudimentary ability to code my own webpages, efficient image optimization was as highly valued a skill as the actual creative design used to present those tiny gifs (jpegs and pngs were yet to make their mark). Similar to the sprawl defining and marring the suburban landscape, a tangled yarn of advertising, scripts, and extraneous elements have slowed the internet to a crawl. I really hope you liked my first post of 2017! For my next posts I will be doing a baby stroller review so you can pick the best one for your baby.

Hawaii, Oahu 2016

By December 15, 2016 Daily Pontification

Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins

The Kaniakapupu, King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins is listed as closed, but nosy-inquiring minds needed to know, so we braved dense overgrowth and a relentless squadron of mosquitoes to discover what’s left of Hawaiian royalty history in a dense tropical jungle filled with mushrooms and the song of birds.

Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins
Kaniakapupu - King Kamehameha III Summer Palace Ruins

My friend Tamara arranged for a special invitation tour of the The Manoa Heritage Center (they have some amazing flushing toilets there), guided by the wonderful Collections Manager, Jenny Leung. Highly recommended if you can spare the time and nab an invite.

Manoa Heritage Center
Manoa Heritage Center
Manoa Heritage Center
The aloha spirit

A Dubai Shipyard

By October 25, 2016 Daily Pontification, Miscellaneous

dubai-shipyarddubai-shipyard-3 dubai-shipyard-4  dubai-shipyard-7  dubai-shipyard-6dubai-shipyard-5

A fascinating corner of Dubai where the modernity of its image gives way to the practicality of the past. Thanks to my friend Roger Fleming for suggesting this to me.

The Wondrous Woodwork Yen Jui-Lin

By August 3, 2016 Daily Pontification, The Design Drawer

Yen Jui-Lin is a wood-making artist from Taiwan with that keen eye for what makes a dead piece of wood seem alive. Wondrous!